First police commissioners chosen amid turnout concerns


David Cameron says voting numbers were "always going to be low"

Several former police officers have beaten party candidates in the first-ever elections for crime commissioners in England and Wales.

So far, Labour and the Conservatives have roughly split most contests, but independents won 11 of the 41 posts.

Voter turnout was historically low, leading the Electoral Commission to describe it as "a concern for everyone who cares about democracy".

With all ballots counted, turnout was about 14.9%, BBC research showed.

Prime Minister David Cameron said low turnout in a first-time election was expected.

"It takes time to explain a new post," the prime minister said, and he predicted voting numbers would be "much higher next time round".

The Conservatives have won 16, Labour 13 and independents 11, with one other successful candidate.

One of the most high-profile defeats was in Humberside where Labour former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott lost to Tory rival Matthew Grove.

Police and crime commissioners will have powers to hire and fire chief constables and set police strategy and budgets.

Lord Prescott Lord Prescott lost to his Conservative rival in Humberside

The government says PCCs will give local people more control over policing, but opponents have warned the changes will politicise the police - and low turnout shows people don't want them.

In other election developments on Friday:

The record low for a national poll in peacetime is the 23% turnout for the 1999 European elections.

Turnout in the PCC election was 12.9% in Merseyside, 13.3% in Thames Valley, and 13.5% in Greater Manchester. These figures include spoilt ballot papers.

Electoral Commission chairwoman Jenny Watson said: "These were new elections taking place at an unfamiliar time of year, which is why we have made clear at every stage that it would be important to engage effectively with voters.

"The government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with. But what is important now is that the right lessons are learnt: we will talk to voters, candidates and returning officers to understand what worked and what didn't.

"The commission is going to undertake a thorough review, and we will present our findings to Parliament in early 2013."

Elections expert Professor John Curtice, of Strathclyde University, said it could be the worst turnout ever.

He added the elections "raised questions" about whether the whole exercise was worth it.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said a general apathy towards politics was to blame for the low turnout.

He said: "We are at a mid-term point in this government, there's a lot of difficult news around at the moment."

But Downing Street sources partly blamed the media, saying because the elections had not been held in London they had generated insufficient national news coverage.

"The national media have not covered themselves in glory," a No 10 source said.

Start Quote

The real flaw was something more fundamental - the voters were never persuaded they needed an elected police and crime commissioner”

End Quote

Home Secretary Theresa May said first elections were always difficult. "The police and crime commissioners are visible, they'll be accessible, they've been elected and crucially they will be accountable to people through the ballot box."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said many people had been cross about a lack of information, including what the job entailed and who the candidates were.

"It's not acceptable to be so careless with democracy, so careless with policing, but also so careless with money for the tax payer too."

Labour's Chuka Umunna called the elections "a total shambles", suggesting the £100m cost would have paid for 3,000 police officers.

Turnout reached 27.48% in the PCC election in Bristol, where voters were also going to the polls to choose the city's first directly-elected mayor, but across the Avon and Somerset police area as a whole it dropped to 19.58%.

Darren Hughes of the Electoral Reform Society said the PCC elections had started as a flagship government policy, but had descended into a "farce".

He said having an election in November was "crazy", but resourcing of the election needed to be addressed as well, so that candidates are able to cover areas larger than a usual constituency.

Residents of Wiltshire tell the BBC's Jon Kay why they did, and didn't, vote

One of successful independents in England, Ann Barnes, a former Kent Police Authority chairwoman, said the "real winners are the people of Kent who did not want their police force to be politicised".

In Dorset, successful candidate Mr Underhill said his "number one" priority was to hire a chief constable "with my vision".

"There's a lot to do in the first 100 days."

The first PCC for Lancashire, Labour's Clive Grunshaw, said it was a "new era for policing", while the North Yorkshire PCC, Conservative Julia Mulligan, said she intended to work hard "without political prejudice."

In Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld said after his election success: "I am a Conservative but I haven't had a gilded life. You grow up quickly commanding a platoon in the jungles of Borneo."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    I wouldn't employ anyone on £100,000 per year in my business without knowing little more than their name. Its almost like X Factor , my vote gets someone million pound contract who I've never meet and based on limited information but that's what I'm expected to do for this its an absolute disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    I didn't vote, not through apathy, but because I just don't agree with this idea. My only choice was to abstain from this farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    What a total waste of Money, 40 plus PCC at a salary of £100.000 each a year for 4 years, plus I suspect expenses, plus the cost of the election, money which would have been better spent on more police officers, not someone to tell a dwindling force of officers what to do

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    A minus -33 for your thoughts
    Does anyone else get the impression that the the country & Europe are ending up as a socialist state, all with their hands out.
    But theirs no money people so socialism fails when you've ran out of everyone elses.
    Thats how Hitler started as a Social Democratic Party.
    He seen himself as a Socialist !

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    I intended to go to the polling dtstion to enter a spoilt ballot, but unfortunately left it too late. I do not think it is a good idea to politisise policing. I hope the low turnout will persuede the powers that be to abandon this ridiculous policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Not wanted or needed and, judging by the low turnout, shown to be so. Point made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    Another flag-ship policy falls into disrepute, this time due to voter apathy. If this is an indication of how the big society is going to work, I don't hold out much hope for those services that the voluntary sector have been earmarked to provide, rather than the 'overly-bureaucratic nanny state'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    "... I would have liked some warning of this so I could have studied each candidate's views."

    If the information available on the website was as good as that for my local candidates you'd have learnt practically nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    I did not vote on this matter, and never will. I am profoundly against politicisation of the police, and even if it's only at this petty level to start with. Even now, all chief constables will soon be retired, fired or sycophantic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    Complete waste of money during a recession! We don't need either and most people don't want either, so why did they waste millions on them? Typically idiotic, out of touch government, we are led by a House of Commons full of inept fools, on all sides, who can't see the real picture, they cut our needs and waste on theirs! Time for some adults who have lived to run the country, not children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    Rob Burberry, elections co-ordinator for UKIP, tells the BBC News Channel says the majority of the country has spoken, "with a firm voice, 'we don't want commissoners'".
    Wrong. We just don't want commissioners from politcal parties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Mr Cameron, from the people of the UK here is a message to you: The people have (NOT) voted
    Now give us the Electorate a vote IN or OUT of the EU. I can assure you the people WILL vote then! Stop trying toi think what we want give us what we want, the people that vote for you, ask you on our behalve to represent us

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    I didn't vote as I believe the PCC role is flawed. I'm also very angry as Dorset PCC has several new posts advertised at £30k pa each to support the very well paid incoming commissioner! Funny, I was under the impression we were trying to cut budgets!

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    Thatcher used the police as a political weapon to smash the miners. The police and the law need to be apolitical and not run by politicians. It’s currently not apolitical and that’s why poverty stricken benefit cheats are top targets and super rich tax evaders are ignored. The UK law has always been used as a weapon by the wealthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    Several have suggested voting for independents as they will not be political puppets. In Norfolk, the only independent was an ex-Conservative councillor. Some choice! In the end, I voted for the only candidate who stated that he was against privatising part of the local police service. As for allowing a first and second choice, it was a struggle to find one to vote for, lete alone 2!

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    I did vote - for the one I saw as being the lesser of the 4 'evil's' - The quality of the contestants seems to have been pathetic for such lucrative and influential positions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    1054: Wayne David Labour MP for Caerphilly tweets: In Caerphilly there were 2.5% of votes spoilt. Many people were deliberately spoiling their ballot paper. This election has been shambolic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    This so far has been a total shambolic state of affairs.

    We were told by our Council we would receive before voting day, information on the candidates but we received nothing.

    All the Tories appear to be doing is politicising (and "Americanising") our Police force with these new Commissioners pulling the strings. How demotivating and demoralising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    A lot of comments chastise people who didn't vote due to lack of information for not making the effort to find out for themselves by some way or means... I'm sorry, but that's not how it works. If you want me to vote for you, you find me, you find me and you tell me who you are, what you stand for, why you're different to any of these other muppets and you CONVINCE me to vote for you!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    I was not sure whether not voting or voting Labour would send a better message (of disapproval for party politics to be involved in policing) to the government. I decided to vote but when I looked at my ballot paper I was unprepared for having to make a second choice. I would have liked some warning of this so I could have studied each candidate's views.


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